The Knights of Malta
In the heart of the centro storico (historical centre), on Via dei Condotti, one of Rome's most fashionable streets, stands Palazzo Magistrale, which, since 1834, has been the headquarters of the ancient Sovereign Military Order of Malta (S.M.O.M.), commonly known as the Order of Malta or the Knights of Malta.
The palazzo was left to the Knights of Malta in 1629 by the Maltese scholar and archaeologist Fra’ Antonio Bosio (c. 1575-1629), who also acted as the Order's representative in Rome. At first the palazzo served as the residence of the Order's ambassador to the Papal States. Two centuries later, when the Order arrived Rome, it became the residence of its Grand Master and the seat of government.
Two flags fly at the entrance in Via dei Condotti. One is the flag of St John – the State flag – and the other is the flag of the Order’s hospitaller works. The personal flag of the Grand Master is raised when he is in residence.
The Order of Malta also owns the Villa Magistrale on the Aventine hill, which is perhaps best known for its 'keyhole' view of St Peter's Basilica.
Founded in the 11th century, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, as it was first called, was set up to care for pilgrims to the Holy land. The Order later moved to Rhodes and then to Malta before arriving in Rome in 1834. This long history is reflected in the Order's full name: the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta.
Both Palazzo Magistrale and Villa Magistrale enjoy extraterritorial rights.
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My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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